Thursday, May 7, 2009

Privilege: What is is, and what it ain't.

I happened across this quote in the comments section of Sociological Images:

I think the reason for using an “everyman” instead of an “everywoman” is because women, being women, have specific experiences as women. A female character is aware of her gender. An everyman character can have both male and female experiences, and become somewhat androgynous (ie. Nemo).

It’s privilege, I admit. White privilege is being able to not think about race, and male privilege is being able to not think about gender.

Here's the thing; this commenter got it exactly backwards. It's true that "male privilege is being able to not think about gender", but that's BECAUSE THE MALE GENDER IS ASSUMED THE STANDARD. So men don't have to bother themselves to familiarize with women's experiences, and thus don't have to "think about gender". Women, as the "other gender", have to deal with male-centered culture all the damn time, where the male perspective/motivation is presented constantly. Thus women have a better idea of what it's like to be a man than men have of what it's like to be a woman. If it were about lived experiences, the average woman would be a much better "everyman" (eugh, typing that word made my stomach turn a little).

But it's not about lived experiences. It's about what the audience can project onto the characters. In this case, this commenter sees women, clearly, as the "special case" gender who can only experience womanly things, whereas men are objective observers. Men are the default, women are the other. AGAIN.

Basically, what this douchenozzle is saying is, "Men are the standard, because men are the standard!! People notice when girls are girls. Because they're girls! Duh. That's what male privilege means!"

OK, so maybe he's unintentionally closer to the truth than I'm giving him credit for...


  1. Exactly.

    ... and another related thing ...

    In many "traditional" (UWA) societies boys and girls are raised in the company of (and by) women, and at a later time the boys may join a male subset of society, some sort of male institution. This means the young girls see less of male society and the young boys are seeped in female society, experientially.

    This may mean two things: 1) in such societies, it is easier to maintain a 'secret' or highly exclusive male institution with trappings than to maintain a parallel female institution (this can have enormous political institutions); and 2) the presumption of male standard perhaps should not arise in those societies, but does anyway.